15 May 2015

Refugees, migrants and asylum seekers in Libya are subjected to ransoms, torture, ill-treatment, sexual violence and other human rights abuses, as described, and denounced by Amnesty International, in a report issued this week.

Amnesty condemns systematic detention of migrants and refugees, including those attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. At immigration detention centres, migrants, both women and men, face torture and ill-treatment; and are forced to live in inadequate conditions for unlimited periods, due to shortages of basic needs, such as water and food.

The report gives voice to vulnerable people, including women raped, sexually abused and harassed along smuggling migration routes in Libya, as well as in immigration detention centres. Refugees and religious minorities in Libya, especially Christian migrants, are often victim of abuses, such as unlawful killings, abductions and torture.

According to testimonies, many sub-Saharan people, including women, unaccompanied and separated children, have been abducted for ransoms and held in captivity, some of them for months. During this period, they have been beaten and tortured, with limited or no access to basic needs such as food, water and sanitary facilities.

At the same time, migrants cannot find international protection in Libyan neighbouring countries. Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria have closed their borders and imposed strict requirements to obtain visas and entry permits. Thus, refugees and migrants have no option but to risk their lives in the Mediterranean Sea where, in 2015 alone, over 1,700 people died trying to cross.

Regarding EU initiatives, Amnesty is concerned that European plans to “systematically identify, capture and destroy vessels”, ostensibly to fight human smuggling, would only act to contribute to migrants and refugees being trapped in Libya, thus exposing expose them to the risk of further serious human rights abuses.

Refugees and migrants are manifestly victims of widespread human rights abuses and violations of humanitarian law; maltreatments that continue to affect people living in Libya, a country of protracted armed conflict and lawlessness.

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 This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 15 May 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.